Ray Winstone: Why West Ham MUST be handed the keys to the Olympic Stadium…Hollywood actor writes exclusively for Sportsmail'Common sense must prevail', says The Sweeney star
London Legacy Development Corporation to decide on Wednesday
14:48 GMT, 4 December 2012
As the decision over the future of the Olympic Stadium edges ever closer, one of West Ham’s most famous fans has called for the east London club to be named as the anchor tenants of the venue.
Hollywood actor Ray Winstone has pleaded for ‘common sense to prevail’ as the Hammers wait to find out who will be named as the preferred bidder by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) on Wednesday.
The Premier League club are up against League One side Leyton Orient, a football business college and a group keen to bring Formula One racing to the Olympic Park.
But Winstone exclusively tells Sportsmail there can only be one winner…
I was born in Hackney and spent my early years living in Plaistow so I grew up in the area where the Olympics Games were held. I loved living in east London and we are a special bunch of people where community spirit and passion form a major part of who we are.
But I’ve watched how the area has changed over time and know only too well that it has needed rejuvenation for many, many years.
The fun and games of the Olympics are over now and we have a golden opportunity to really change the perception of the area and put the pride back in east London.
Decision time: The future of the Olympic Stadium is set to be decided
Like most other East Enders, I’m a lifelong supporter of West Ham United and I feel so passionately about my club and the area I grew up in that wanted to share my thoughts on how I think the Olympic Stadium can be used to help make that change.
As many people know, the club are currently going through the process of trying to become tenants at the Stadium, a process that could be concluded soon.
I keep hearing this word ‘legacy’ but I think it’s been overused to the point where people don’t really know what it means. For me, the word legacy is simply about what we are going to leave for our future generations.
I remember when I was a boy my Dad used to take me to the cinema in east London every Wednesday and I used to watch the actors on the big screen and thought ‘I want to do what that geezer does’. It’s exactly the same for the kids around us today. We need to give them something to aspire to.
West Ham’s Vice-Chairman Karren Brady has said that if the club are chosen, they are determined to create an arena that can be used for athletics, football and the community. This means that young kids will be able to follow in my footsteps and see their idols and role models up close every week, while also getting involved in skills coaching that the West Ham community department provide. It’s the perfect match.
Grand plans: West Ham's Vice-Chairman Karren Brady (R) has said that if the club are chosen, they are determined to create an arena (below) that can be used for athletics, football and the community
For me and for thousands of other East Londoners, the one consistent focal point of the area is our football team. I think the club have something like half a million supporters in East London and Essex.
As the population of London has expanded, people who were born and bred in east London have slowly started to move out into places like Essex. But the main reason we have for coming back is West Ham United; it’s our roots and it’s about where we are from. It’s in our blood from the day we’re born.
So I think the fitting legacy for this area and the rest of the country would be to allow West Ham United to help fulfil the dreams of the people of East London and become tenants of the Olympic Stadium.
Yes it would bring a great future for the club, but more importantly it would rejuvenate the area as well.
The prestige of having a Premier League club playing in that Stadium would keep the focus of the world on Stratford for generations and long after the memories of the summer’s spectacular sporting moments have faded away.
Legacy: After the success of the London 2012 Olympics (above and below), athletics will play an important part in the stadium's future – but so can West Ham, argues Winstone
Although athletics must have a future at the stadium, a key question for me is ‘Do we want to see the Olympic Stadium used maybe once or twice every six months by just having athletics there’. I certainly don’t. Having West Ham there would bring tens of thousands of people from all over the country to the Olympic Park every other week and keep that lively atmosphere we saw during the summer.
It would also bring new jobs to the area, not just working at the Stadium, but also the surrounding areas. The club alone have promised to create over 700 new positions.
People will want to bring their businesses back, which will rejuvenate this area. If you go around some parts of east London at the moment all you see are shops that are closed and people having to go somewhere else to find a job. I think that West Ham moving into that stadium would help bring some of that buzz back.
Hammer time: West Ham want to leave their Upton Park (below) home to start a new, exciting era in Stratford
On the football side, it would be good for the club and it would attract great players who would want to play in a great stadium. It is the way forward for West Ham. The way the club has been run over the past two years by the people who run it proves they are more than capable of taking West Ham into that Stadium and turning them into a very successful club both on and off the field. They also genuinely care about East London.
We are not Liverpool or Man United but we are a big club with a proud history. We won the World Cup by the way. We are a famous name, a name that hasn’t been realised to its full potential yet, but I think at last we are in good hands to realise that potential. Being offered the chance to play in the Olympic Stadium would be the icing on the cake.
It's time for common sense to prevail.
'Common sense must prevail': The Sweeney and Sexy Beast (below) star says West Ham are the only option